20,000-plus at ‘last march’

VINDICATED - The message was clear, after 39 years, many marched miles and even more tears and troubles. Sunday’s Bloody Sunday march was the first held after the victims of state murder had been officially exonerated.

It’s thought upwards of 20,000 people followed the commemoration behind campaigners carrying the banner with that word ‘Vindicated.’

The truth, which had so emotionally been set free on June 15th, was once again laid bare on Sunday as the people marched, not for an enquiry, not for justice, but in celebration that the names of the dead and wounded had been cleared after one of the longest campaigns the world has ever seen.

It had been billed as the last ever Bloody Sunday March. However a number of the bereaved families broke away from the head of the march as it approached what was once called Aggro Corner.

Supporters carrying the names of Patrick Doherty, Alex Nash and William Nash turned right at the junction of William and Rossville Streets. They made their way to Free Derry corner with initially a small number of supporters as the remainder of the families entered Guildhall Square, the intended destination of the infamous 1972 Civil Rights demonstration.

“Who said this is the last march?” asked Linda Nash, whose father, Alex, was shot as he attempted to go to the aid of his fatally wounded son William. “This march is owned by the people of Derry who came out for the last 38 years to support us. This is their march. Why would you take a platform such as this away from them? It is a great platform to highlight social injustice, the only platform Derry has. It would be arrogant of my family to cancel this march.”

“We are looking for justice, that means prosecutions so we are doing what we are doing every other year until we get those.”

Denying a split among the families, Ms. Nash said: “We’ve not agreed on everything during the last 39 years, there’ve always been differences of opinion but we are going to keep marching.”

John Kelly, brother of murdered Michael, said simply: “We have set the truth free. The hills are getting steeper and we are getting older. We have overcome.”

Thousands who attended the rally at Guildhall Square heard speeches from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Mark Durkan MP, Briege Voyle of the Ballymurphy Massacre Group and Gerry Duddy representing the Bloody Sunday families.

Mrs. Voyle, whose mother, Joan Connolly, was also shot dead by the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in August 1971 called on Derry to support the annual ‘March for Truth’ in Belfast on 6th August.

“Much has been made about the cost of the Saville report but I would like to say a few things about cost to Mr Cameron. What cost did the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy Families pay when the British Government unleashed the Parachute regiment on the streets of Derry and the Belfast? We paid the cost with the lives of our innocent loved ones. We paid the cost with all the special moments. All of life’s little successes which have felt hollow because of the absence of a loved one’s proud gaze.”

See more coverage on pages 8 and 18 - 21.